Last year, virtually onboarding new hires went from a rarity to an absolute necessity for businesses all around the world. How can staffing agencies get remote onboarding right?
In 2020, the COVID pandemic forced millions to become “remote employees,” working from home during strict government lockdowns. Becoming part of a distributed workforce was a learning experience for the majority of us.
But for those who were hired or started new “remote” jobs during the pandemic – including the author of this post – joining a company or team without ever having met our colleagues in person, or ever having been to the business’ offices raised an unforeseen question that plagued HR departments everywhere: how does a company best onboard a fully remote employee?
Remote Work: The New Normal
It’s been said that the COVID pandemic accelerated societal and professional trends that were already changing the way people live and work. Online shopping, for example, exploded. The housing market also boomed.
But perhaps no trend accelerated as quickly in 2020 as the embrace of remote work and the adoption of distributed workforces.
According to Business Insider, 54 percent of adults say they want to work remotely full time after the pandemic, and 75 percent of people want to continue working from home in at least some capacity. Many workers feel so strongly about their newfound preference for remote work that they are quitting companies where leadership is mandating a return to the office. Bloomberg News recently reported that 39 percent of U.S. workers would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The figure rose to 49 percent among millennials and Gen Z workers.
In part because of these changes in worker preference – and workers’ newfound influence over employers – in part because of safety and health concerns, in part because of prohibitively expensive commercial real estate costs, remote work seems like it’s here to stay. Forbes reported that in a post-COVID world, remote-first models will be just as prevalent as office-first, and hybrid models are likely to more than double.
In fact, forward-thinking companies – including Twitter, Facebook and our very own Crelate – have already adopted the remote-first model. And a Gartner survey found that 74 percent of CFOs plan to shift some of their employees to remote work permanently.
Onboarding New Hires As Remote Employees
Of course, the very thing that makes an employee “remote” – not being in a centralized office – means they don’t walk in on their first day for an orientation with the HR team or their new boss.
So, considering you may never meet your remote hires face to face, how do you onboard a new remote employee at your staffing agency in a way that sets them, your agency, and your client up for success?
In the weeks after your remote hire has joined your team – even before they start on their first assignment – send them company swag to make them feel like they’re part of your team. A company t-shirt and/or coffee mug, along with a personalized note, will help them feel connected to your agency, even if you’ve never met in person.
Once your new employee’s first assignment is lined up, let them know in advance as much as you can about their upcoming job: Who are they reporting to? Who’s on their team? Who should they turn to with questions? What’s expected of them in this role?
Also share any important documentation, like an employee handbooks or mission statement from the client company, to help your remote employee get up to speed in advance of their first day. Laying this type of foundation will help them hit the ground running on day one.
Then, work with your client to equip your worker with everything they need in advance of their first day on assignment. For example, if they need a computer, make sure your client has shipped it and it’s working properly. Think about monitors, a keyboard and mouse, and any other necessary hardware. Then make sure your hire’s been trained on any communication tools they’ll need, like email, Slack or Zoom. Be sure your worker’s hardware is set up and they’ve been trained on all the requisite tools so they’re ready to go well in advance of their start date.
Frequent Communication Is Key
Nobody wants to feel like they’re starting a new job unsure of what awaits them or, worse, like they’re unprepared for their new responsibilities. At the same time, nobody wants to feel that they’re treated like a faceless automaton working on an assembly line.
Engaging new remote hires in advance of their first day is a good way to keep them excited for their new role, and it has serious benefits for your agency, too.
And it helps to avoid pitfalls. According to employee recognition company Engage2Excel, 46 percent of job seekers would consider other offers if they didn’t hear from someone at the hiring company between time of offer acceptance and their first day on the job. In line with that, CNBC reported that 83 percent of employers had been “ghosted” by new hires who never showed up for their first day of work. Given today’s record-tight labor market, losing a new employee before their first day on the job is a risk staffing agencies can’t afford to take.
To keep your distributed hires engaged and excited for their upcoming assignments, make sure you stay in touch with them in the days and weeks leading up to their first day on the job. This can be as simple as a short phone call, an email or two, or even a couple quick text messages to make sure all their questions are answered and they’re ready to roll. If nothing else, reaching out will show your remote workers that you care about their success and happiness. And that’s sure to build a stronger relationship over the long run.
Communication with your client is also important, as their interaction with your employee is similarly crucial to an effective and engaging onboarding. And your client contact may not be within the company’s HR department, as the logistics of temporary hires are often handled by department heads. Be sure to work specifically with the manager of your remote employee to keep them engaged in the days leading up to their first day and in the weeks after they’ve started.
Make Sure Onboarding Is Structured
There’s little that makes a new hire question their decision to join your team faster than a confusing and disorganized first few days. And 30 percent of new employees do question their decision, to the point they leave their new job within 90 days of their start date.
To avoid this kind of morale-killing confusion, keep onboarding structured by carefully planning out your new hires’ first few weeks on the job. Ideally, you want a daily schedule for at least the first five days, with expectations set around who they’ll be meeting and what they’ll be learning.
In regard to who they should meet, beyond merely introducing them to their direct manager, arrange video calls with other coworkers and teammates, and – depending on the size of the organization – potentially VPs, or even the CEO. It’s also a great idea to assign new hires a “buddy,” or a mentor who can show them the ropes and answer any questions they might have as they ramp up. The Human Capital Institute reports that 87 percent of organizations that assign a mentor or a buddy during the onboarding process say it’s an effective way to speed up new hire proficiency. (Sending a department or company-wide email – again, depending on organizational size – is another way to introduce new teammates, with the added benefit that it makes them feel welcome.)
As far as what they need to learn, provide them with all the information they need to get up to speed on their new role. Think internal documentation like employee handbooks and mission statements, but also anything specific to their job, making their training as targeted as possible. Do they need instruction on specific software? Is there a certain process in which they need to become fluent? Focusing on the most-important training each new hire needs to receive during their onboarding will help them ramp up faster, keeping them and your client happier.
And to keep you, your new employee and your client accountable to each other, set onboarding goals and expectations. What should your worker have learned and accomplished at the end of week one? At the end of their first month? At the end of their first 90 days? Define these expectations as much as possible, even going so far as to provide a checklist with important tasks and trainings that can be crossed off as they’re accomplished.
Personalize Onboarding for Each New Hire
For some, it can be difficult to feel recognized as part of the team as a remote employee, particularly if you’re new. To combat that sense of isolation and to make sure your new remote hire is getting everything they need during their first few weeks with your client, it’s important to make sure you and the client supply them with a personalized onboarding plan.
It may sound overwhelming, particularly if you’re onboarding a large number of workers at once, but you can save time by utilizing the same format for each. And it’s worth it: taking the time to personalize the onboarding process shows respect for the worker as an individual and creates a sense of connection on distributed teams.
The Keys to a Successful Remote Onboarding
We’re all adapting to the post-COVID world. Remote work – and remote onboarding – look like they’re going to be the new normal from now on.
But your agency can take solace in the fact that the same approach to onboarding new hires still applies today, and will still apply in the future.
When you’re onboarding a new remote hire, make communication frequent, and work with your clients to make your onboarding structured and personalized. By applying these best practices for remote onboarding, you’ll ensure a lucrative and positive experience for you, your workers and your clients.
Learn more about how Crelate helps staffing agencies onboard new employees here.